Friday, July 31, 2009

Glory Days of the X-Men

Recently in comics, the X-Men have been suffering quite a bit. Ever since Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men ended, it's been a struggle for Marvel to regain the spark that made the X-Men special. They tried decreasing the amount of mutants in the world, but that's just made the series about speciesism, and not human/mutant struggles.

Anyway, while the X-Men might now be relying on a cross-over with the Dark Avengers, I can't help but remember where the rampant X-Men popularity started. With Len Wein and Dave Cockrum - the X-Men changed forever, from a struggling 3ed string property, to a first class best seller. Giant X-Men #1 helped propel the X-Men to greater heights, and introduced some of the series most enduring and popular characters.

It all began with a mission to a monster Island.

The original X-Men had been caught by this living island, and this prompted Xavier to quickly recruit a new team of X-Men to help save the old ones. Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolverine, Banshee, Sunfire, and Thunderbird where a breath of fresh air to the series. Not only did they all come equipped with fantastic new powers and looks, but each one of them came from foreign countries.

When all was said and done, the All New, All Different X-Men where formed.

Christ Claremont quickly took over the writing of the title, and slimmed down the large cast of mutants to Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Banshee, and Cyclops. Teammate Thunderbird quickly became the first casualty, dying on one of their first missions.

The X-Men continued on, having many adventures and did something most other comics never did - continued the story line from issue to issue, creating a soap opera-like feel. Most comics at the time found this style of writing untenable, as issue sales many times depended on the reader knowing what to expect form a book each month. A continuing story line, like the X-Men portrayed, was something rare. It could have easily backfired. But in fact this is where the series and characters thrived. Chris Claremont found an excellent balance to the always changing story line, and the mandates of monthly comics, by always reminds readers, each issue key points about characters. Always explaining how their powers work and what the X-Men fought for - this helped give readers everything they needed to know when jumping into any particular issue.

The most popular character to come out of the X-Men was no doubt Wolverine. As Claremont continued to write the series, we found out, slowly, more and more about the mysterious and rouge character. It's hard to forget now, but at the time we didn't even know how his powers worked. "Where the claws part of his costume?", for instance. Much of Wolverine's character was forged within the pages of these early issues - and I think his character, in general, was probably definitively cast when Claremont and Frank Miller did their first solo series with him. (That's my opinion, at least)

You cannot mention the Claremont/Cockrum era without mentioning one of their most defining story lines, that of the Phoenix Saga. It seemed like, with all that the X-Men had done to that point, a giant space saga was the final culmination of all these adventures. Jean Grey became a prominent figure because of this story, as she merged with the Phoenix entity and helped save the universe from the villain D'Ken of the Shi'ar Empire.

After Cockrum left the series as artist, John Byrne took over and helped propel the X-Men to even greater popularity.

Byrne and Claremont completed the Phoenix Saga in one of the most spectacular ways possible. Jean Grey, now consumed by the power of the Phoenix force, went crazy - destroying planets and nearly her fellow X-Men. The Shi'ar stepped in, in response, and held that Jean Grey must die for what she did as the Dark Phoenix. In a tragic death on par with Gwen Stacy dying in Spider-Man, Jean Grey killed herself to stop herself and the Phoenix force once and for all.

After the Dark Phoenix Saga it seemed like Byrne's effect on the series finally took hold. Wolverine was put in a cool new brown costume, Kitty Pryde was introduced into the X-Men as a great new teen sidekick. Byrne and Claremont's best story line kicked off during this time, that helped define the X-Men for years to come, that of "Days of Future Past" that dramatically saw how the X-Men's mission of a peaceful co-existence could entirely fail.

Even after John Byrne left the series, the X-Men continued on. The continued evolution of the X-Men continued to be deftly handled by Chris Claremont. One of the bigger changes to the team, I think, was Storm - who's innocent personality changed, making her a fiercer fighter. While the cosmetic change didn't last forever, her commanding leadership has remained, forever strengthening the character.

Claremont continued to write the X-Men well, introducing new characters and themes into the series -- but it did eventually begin to wane. I particularly thought the Mutant Massacre story line fell flat, and the Inferno story line even worse. But it will never erase the great memories and great stories that helped make the X-Men what they are today.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fallout 3, Hints for New Players

One of the best games of this current console generation, in my opinion, has been Fallout 3. The incredible journey the game allows you to take, across the Capital Wastelands (Nuked Out Washington DC) has been one of the most engaging and immersing gaming experiences I've even tried.

Anyway - I am highly anticipating the release of Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition, which is going to feature all the extra downloadable content for the game. (Being a PS3 owner, I have to wait to even get the downloadable content) I think they are going to release it in October of this year.

If you missed out on this game, I highly recommend it. I do, however, caution that it is a very intense game. You have to make a lot of moral choices during gameplay. I might be overly sensitive, but I'm not the kind of gamer who can play something like GTA4 and go crazy killing people on the streets, even in a game. The key word for Fallout 3 gameplay is Survival -- and you get into quite a few firefights, and encounter all sorts of nasty characters.

For anyone new to the game, I wanted to give some hints that might help you in the game.


- You need to earn a lot of money in the game to maintain and upgrade your armor, weapons, and medicine. The best tip I can give is to try scavenging through ruined buildings and such. You can do missions that earn money, but often times that means going into a battle - and that just means more cash you need to replenish supplies.
- When scavenging, I recommend picking up any small items, that don't weigh a lot, but give you more than one bottle-cap apiece. (Bottle Caps are the currency in the game) You don't want to overfill your pockets with utensils that weigh 1, and only give 1 cap in return. Grabbing any medicine is also good, as is usually doesn't count in the weight of your supplies. So grab anything that doesn't have weight.
- Try and use a perk to increase the amount of weight you can carry - as this helps increase the amount of money you can bring in every-time you return home.

Buy a Home
- One of the biggest mistakes I made when first playing this game is not getting a home early. You really need one - as a constant base to return to. I simply didn't know about this until half-way through the game, as trying to find beds to sleep on are far and in-between.
- There are two real options for your home. One is in Megaton City or Tenpenny Tower. You have to make a choice, you first major moral choice of the game, as to wether to deactivate or blow up the bomb located in the center of Megaton City. If you choose to deactivate the bomb, you'll receive a house for free in Megaton. If you decide to activate the bomb, and blow up Megaton, then you get a free suite in Tenpenny Tower.
- Both options are pretty much the same, as Tenpenny Tower and Megaton have about the same resources and stores at your disposal. The only major hitch I've experienced is that Megaton has a better Supply Store, and Tenpenny Tower does not have a weapon repairman. (At least that I've found) Megaton is the smarter choice - but, wiping the whole place off the map is fun too.
- The biggest thing to achieving your own home, and quickly, is you need to increase your science skill first. If you don't do that, like I did in the game, accessing the bomb at all becomes impossible.
- Once you have a home, you won't have to spend money on doctors as much, as a quick day's nap will fix any ailing health problems.

Save Often
- The game does this automatically for you, but if you're on the surface for an extended period of time, it helps to save the game every once in awhile. A lot of progress can be wiped out from a single unprepared battle. (Especially against Super Mutants. You really need to wait awhile before you'll be strong enough, or have good enough weapons, to go anywhere near Super Mutants.)

Weapon Repair
- I really did not understand repairing weapons until my second play through the game. You can rely on a dealer to repair a lot of your stuff, but that can cost a lot. So, whenever you defeat an enemy, and can search their items, check their weapons. Take weapons that you personally already have, as having two of the same weapon will allow you to repair them. You might not be able to get the resale of that extra weapon, but you'll have fixed up your current weapon without having to go to a dealer.

Taking Stuff
- I know this might seem obvious, but you want to be careful what objects you touch or take in the game. Even if you're playing as a bad guy, and want to steal everything, you might want to contain your looting to deserted areas or things that are plainly free. This might just be because I'm not good with the sneaking portion of the game, but it's usually just not worth it to try and steal objects when someone is around. Not only can this get you in trouble, but it can make useful locations, like Megaton City, unusable because you where caught.
- If your confused as to wether it's OK to pick something up or not, just check to see if the text is green or red. I know, again, this seems obvious, but some places seem like they are occupied, but it's actually OK to take stuff.

I know some of this stuff might seem very obvious, especially to experienced players -- but I really did waste a lot of time because I didn't know about these options. So I hope these hints might be able to help some inexperienced newcomer.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Planet Hulk, Wolverine Anime, and Iron Man Anime DVD Preview

You might have already seen these, but I thought it might be helpful to have them all in one place for everyone to view.

It looks like Marvel is working hard to please it's Direct to DVD fans. Not only are we getting Planet Hulk -- but also, apparently, two Anime Movies of Wolverine and Iron Man. I don't even mind that Wolverine's hair is weird in it - it just looks incredibly awesome!

I use to be very guarded with buying Marvel's Direct to DVD releases right away, because sometimes they disappointed. (Ultimate Avengers, 1 and 2, being a good example) But I'll definitely be buying the Wolverine Anime and Planet Hulk right off the store shelves. Marvel has actually managed to restore my faith in these projects.

Planet Hulk Trailer

Wolverine Anime Trailer

Iron Man Anime Trailer

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Who the @#$^%! is the Red Hulk?


Issue #600 of the Hulk came out today. What an utter, utter disapointment. Marvel seemingly promised an answer in this issue as to who the Red Hulk was. It's been over a year, 12 issues (some late) of Hulk (without the Incredible) stringing us along as to who the Red Hulk really is.

So, I immediately flip through the issue on the way home. Some of the art makes it look like Leonard Samson is the Red Hulk, but you later see him buried underneath and beat up by Red Hulk. (Which is good, because a suddenly crazy Leonard Samson would have been an even bigger disappointment.)

Well, no answer this issue. Who the @#%*! is the Red Hulk? I honestly don't care anymore! I hope Marvel wasn't banking on us all being stupid enough to keep reading the solo adventures of the Red Hulk. (Which will be on issue #13 by now) I'm only marginally pleased that Greg Pak will be back writing the Incredible Hulk next issue.

I am officially sick of this whole guessing game. Loeb has done nothing but screw fans out of 12 issues worth of money, and then expect us to shell out even more cash to string us along even longer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hot Pepper Snoopy

Check out this cool video that was featured on Attack of the Show. It's a commercial for Hot Pepper Sause from Japan, I think. It's weird, but it's definately cute. I like how all the Peanuts characters come around and start dancing with her.

Futurama Revival, but Without the Original Voice Cast?

Update: This was my response when this news hit. The problem has since been resolved, and the original voice cast is staying.

I heard news that the revival of Futurama has been approved by Comedy Central, but that they could not come to an agreement with the voice actors over pay. They have even already put out casting calls to replace the entire cast.

There's still time for this to be resolved, and Comedy Central might just be playing hard ball - but, really, if they can't be bothered to pay the original voice actors what they deserve, then they should just scrap the whole project.

I love Futurama, and was elated to see it come back on DVD the past few years. The idea of the show successfully being revived (which it richly deserves) was like a dream come true. Now this happens. Without the real voices of Futurama, it's like the soul of the series would be gone. Would anyone take The Simpsons seriously if Homer and everyone else was suddenly voiced by different people?

If Billy West (Fry, Zoidberg, and the Professor), Katey Sagal (Leela), and John DiMaggio (Bender) aren't doing the voices - then I simply won't be watching.

I seems like the networks are doing what they do best - Ruin quality shows, now even before their on the air!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Secret Identity Guessing Game

There's been an annoying trait comics, as of late, have been adopting. In an effort to garner interest and help sales, a number of comics have gone into the business of making us guess the secret identities of certain characters. This is fun once in a while, but it has been so over done, and done badly in some cases, that I'm just plain sick of it.

Who is the Red Hulk? After over a year without an answer, nobody really cares. We're finally suppose to get the answer in Incredible Hulk issue #600, but it took many stupefying issues of "Hulk" (minus the Incredible) to get to this point. Jeph Loeb and Marvel thought they had such a winning guessing game, that they where so cleaver, they thought they could string us along for over a year before giving us some answer. Well, not good enough. Whoever Red Hulk is, is just going to be a disappointment when you put it next to how long it took for this secret to even be revealed.

Who is the Black Panther? This is another annoying guessing game, where a lot of people simply don't care anymore. First off - it's a whole new #1 based around this guessing game. T'Challa is in a hospital nearly dead, just so we can have a big guessing game over who this new female Black Panther is? Not cool, not cool. I'm quite frankly surprised Marvel didn't try and kill T'Challa, just to have a better lead into this new series. At least someone behind the scenes saw how stupid this idea was, and thought it best to allow T'Challa a chance to recover, and take back his own darn book.

What is even more annoying about this Black Panther guessing game, is that Marvel intentionally messed with us, releasing fake ads showing different heroes faces unmasked as the Black Panther. They had Echo, Storm - even Wolverine!

I swear, the only reason I want to know who the new Black Panther is, is so we know which character to properly hate for stealing T'Challa's show.

Who is Superwoman? This one is a little less annoying, as it was a contained story line within Supergirl issues, and we did find out the answer only, like what, 6 issues later? The only reason it became a gimmick, really, was because they titled the story "Who is Superwoman?". At least Supergirl issues were not left hanging for a whole year before the revelation.

Who are Nightwing and Flamebird? This, right here, is a more proper way to have a guessing game, if at all. Nightwing and Flamebird appeared during the New Krypton story line in Superman, and where finally revealed when they began starring in Action Comics. No big marketing push, no long wait - we found out who they where pretty quick. A much better job and far less annoying a mystery that any of these others.

Who is Ronin? This guessing game is over, but it seems like this is the one that started this annoying trend in the first place. Bendis thought it would be a good mystery going into New Avengers. Who is Ronin? Well, it didn't help matters that Ronin didn't even appear until issue #11. Then a curve ball is thrown at us, as Ronin isn't even a guy, it's a girl: Echo. While I can accept a girl putting on bulky armor to pretend to be a guy, the whole story just didn't feel right - and there is a reason for that. Apparently Ronin was really suppose to be Daredevil. Bendis told us all that it was always suppose to be Echo, but then he let slip during an interview, when he thought he was off the record, he admitted it was suppose to be Daredevil.

I love Bendis as a writer, and I can see why plans change and everything - but I had hoped he would steer clear of this kind of Secret Identity game in the future, especially considering how anti-climactic the answer was. My only dread is that Bendis might pass the Ronin armor, now owned by Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and give it to someone else for another round of guess who Ronin is?!!??

Who is the New Sorcerer Surpreme? Sadly Bendis still likes his guessing games, as we had to wait around five issues (5 months) as Doctor Strange looked for a new Sorcerer Supreme. Then it turned out to be Brother Voodoo. This round of guessing only took one story arch, but it still stunk of the whole Ronin situation all over again.

Who is the New Batgirl? I nearly forgot this one. New Batgirl series is coming out. Is it Oracle? Cassandra? Spoiler? I for one don't care - Batman has enough people putting on Bat costumes as it is. And you know what is most annoying about this campaign for Batgirl - is that DC has been putting out images showing different costumes this new Batgirl could be wearing. Some costumes seem to indicate Cassandra, with all black leather. Other images show the more classic blue, yellow, and black costume. It's made to confuse us and have us all guessing. (As if we're all that interested after one day's worth of wondering) It's just an endless mind game with these people...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Kamen Rider 555

Here are some images of Kamen Rider 555, or Kamen Rider Faiz. I've been going through the episodes of this excellent series, and it's quite good. The bad guys are just as complex as the heroes, and the over arching mystery concerning Smart Brain and where these Henshin (Transformation) Belts are coming from is very good.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I just came back from seeing the new Harry Potter movie. The Half-Blood Prince was experienced by me a little different than the previous movies - as I usually saw the movie first, and then read the book. Most of the time this was extremely helpful, as many locations baffled my mind and where extremely hard to imagine. The layout of the school it's self, in fact, has caused me much confusion reading, resulting in the halls and corridors becoming a blurred haze in my mind. I imagine, for instance, the Dark Arts school room on the right side of the school, but then find a scene that shifts it completely to the other side. In short, the movies have been very helpful in encapsulating the Harry Potter world for me.

So, I went into this movie having already read the book. In fact, I did a marathon session, finishing half the book in one night and morning. It was very, very tiring, but I was very much on a roll, and I figured it would be nice to finally finish one of the books before seeing the film.

Anyway, the movie was very good. I mentally kept saying "that didn't happen in the book" quite a few times, but over all it was another good adaption of the over all plot. The constant romance in the movie was a bit heavy handed, but very comedic. Ron's crazy girlfriend was a delight on the screen, as she portrayed all the qualities of the worst girl friend in the world.

I was warned by my father, who read a review of the film, that the ending was somewhat different from the book. I had the notion that something wildly unexpected happened, but it was more or less the same tale, just told differently. I have to say, however, that I enjoyed the book much more. In fact, this book so far ranks as my favorite of the books. Finding out what the Horcrux was was especially illuminating, as it made all sorts of connections to the other books' events, tying together many of the series' mysteries. A good movie, and an even finer book. I enjoyed both very much.

Here is a trailer of the film. I do confess having seen the trailers before finishing the book, so I did have a few visual references when reading. If the two interact in readers and viewer's minds so much, I wonder how the films themselves might have changed or influenced JK Rowling.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dragon Quest 9 - Gameplay Footage

There's new video out of gameplay footage from Dragon Quest 9 on the DS. I just can't wait for this game!

Notice, during the battling displayed in this video, that the fighters and enemies are not all along a straight line like usual Dragon Quest games. It looks like proximity and distance will be a factor in battle. Dragon Quest is one of those games that thrives on it's classic-style gameplay. This probably isn't a huge change, but it's still a surprise they would try something so new on a more limited graphical screen. Then again, Dragon Quest main-games have never failed to impress, so I'm very excited about this.

Kamen Rider Agito

Here are some images of Kamen Rider Agito.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

X-Men Evolution/TV Viewer Evolution

I grew up watching the original X-Men cartoon on FOXkids. It was an amazing show. Perhaps not the best animated, but the stories always shined through. Anyway, later a second X-Men cartoon premiered, and I was honestly taken a back by this new show's approach to the X-Men. X-Men: Evolution did not go over well for me. Wolverine's voice was just... all wrong. (Compare the FOXkids Wolverine voice to the current voice on Wolverine and the X-men. That's how his voice should sound!) Not only that, but Storm suddenly had a Marrow-inspired nephew, and the X-Men didn't even learn in Xavier's school, but went to a public school down the street. How weird is that? What if you went to Harvard and then where told to go learn in a building across the street. Would that make sense?

Anyway - X-Men: Evolution was simply going for a different kind of series, putting the X-Men in adolescent situations while they cope with their powers. A good enough concept, but one that I completely abhorred when I was younger. All the changes to the cast and characters simply struck me as wrong. I especially hated Mystique as the principle. Being a loyal X-Men fan, I stuck it out and continued to watch the first season. You want to know what finally made me stop watching? Near the end of the first season Cyclops finds his brother Havok. But instead of depicting him with his visually stunning powers (circles and circles) they just made him shoot blasts out of his hands. That's where I finally gave up and watched other shows.

Anyway, to my actual point - I found something out very surprising recently. The show is actually pretty good. I'm older now, and far more accepting of altered versions of comic characters, for TV and Movies, and I now realize it was a pretty fair show. Wolverine's voice doesn't even bug me as much as it did before. The show got better by introducing more characters, like the New Mutants and Beast. I've been watching the reruns on Jetix. I really have reversed course and see the show for what it is - simply a different take on the X-Men. And not a bad one.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Kamen Rider Blade

Here are some images of Kamen Rider Blade.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Silver Surfer Animated Series

Anyone remember the Silver Surfer Animated series? It was a series that lasted for one season, but it remained in my mind as a good series. Jetix has been rerunning some of the episodes every once in awhile. This series was following on the heels of Marvel's two previous cartoon offerings, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, and the Incredible Hulk. I recall how they handled the Silver Surfer in the FF cartoon - actually depicting him with surfing music. My word - I know he flies on a surf board, but how far away does the character have to get from the ocean before that stops being a gimmick?

The Silver Surfer series took the character in a far more dignified direction. The animation might have been rough at many points (as all Marvel shows where at the time) but the feel of the Silver Surfer remained. The series had an opera themed opening, and any time Galactus showed up - he was shown with awe and majesty. He was primarily a CGI character, mixing with normal Animation, but they gave the character deep shadowing, allowing it to mix well. He remained somewhat motionless, sitting in a chair to his world-draining machine - but his size and power was always felt. Again, I'm not going to claim the animation was always great - but it still left you with the wild inspiration of Jack Kirby and Jim Starlin's cosmic spaceways.

The series only last one season, and in fact ended on a cliff hanger with the Surfer battling Thanos. But it remains a nice memory of the Silver Surfer actually being depicted well, and not with idiotic surfer music.

Kamen Rider Ryuki

Kamen Rider Ryuki. These Riders enter into the mirror world and do battle. This series had to be first for the largest number of Riders. You might notice that this series' footage is what is being used on the American version "Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight".

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Kamen Rider Kabuto

Here are some images of Kamen Rider Kabuto. Like the Flash of Kamen Riders, Kabuto has the power to "Clock Up" - moving so fast that time slows down for a period of time.

Here's also a website about the series The Unofficial Kamen Rider Kabuto HomePage